Manslaughter Charges in Supermarket Blaze

Authorities filed manslaughter charges Tuesday against an owner of a Paraguayan supermarket and five others for a massive fire in the store that killed at least 464 people, local media reported.

The indictments in Paraguay's worst disaster in decades came after investigators said a security guard told them that when Sunday's fire broke out, the doors were ordered locked to prevent looting.

Juan Pio Paiva (search), the store's co-owner along with his son, denied that the doors had been deliberately locked and said the building met safety codes.

Channel 13 television reported that a judge had charged Paiva with involuntary manslaughter and ordered him imprisoned while investigation moved forward. The station also said that a business associate of Paiva and four security guards had been charged, but that Paiva's son still awaited a decision by the court.

Judicial officials had no immediate comment.

Earlier Tuesday, the death toll soared as the attorney general's office said 464 had been killed, up from the 325 reported earlier. Officials also said 409 people remained hospitalized.

Dozens of families were still searching for lost loved ones as investigators questioned the store's two owners, a manager and four security guards over whether the doors had been ordered locked to stop people from leaving without paying — allegedly trapping shoppers inside.

The blaze broke out during lunch hour at the three-story supermarket in a suburb of Asuncion, the capital. Flames quickly spread through the Ycua Bolanos supermarket (search), food court and parking garage, causing a floor to collapse. Officials say they are checking reports an exploding gas canister could have started the flames.

Prosecutor Edgar Sanchez, who is leading the investigation, said a security guard told authorities that at the outset of the fire he received orders over a radio to lock the doors to prevent theft.

Sanchez said the guard "didn't know" who gave the order. "He couldn't identify the voice that spoke to him over the radio," the prosecutor said.

Officials said they were trying to piece together survivor claims that locked doors might have impeded or slowed shoppers trying to escape.

As funerals and burials were held across the capital, the mood remained edgy. Authorities evacuated a second Asuncion (search) supermarket Tuesday after reports of a gas leak.

At the site of the fire, firefighters and others continued searching for victims in the rose-colored building, which was cordoned off by yellow police tape and guarded by rifle-toting soldiers.

Nearby, some families were trying to locate the bodies of relatives missing and believed dead.

Dozens of family members gathered to look over badly burned bodies. Others held up photographs, hoping rescue workers might recognize them.

"I'm looking for my mother! Where is she?" shouted a sobbing Carlos Montiel. Unable to identify her among the bodies, he frantically yelled a description of her: "She's tall, brown, and has black hair.

"I've looked everywhere and nobody knows anything about her," he said.

One woman, Blanca Valinotti, said she believed her 25-year-old daughter Nidia had died in the blaze but had not seen her name on a list of victims circulated by authorities.

"I've given up all hope," she said. "I know she's dead but at least I want to find the body. I need to know what happened to her."

Dozens of volunteer psychologists circulated among the crowd hoping to console relatives, and forensic experts urged some of them to take blood tests and bring dental records and X-rays to help identify victims.